Surfing the Middle East
By Jesse Aizenstat
ISBN 13: 978-0-9837009-1-3, hardcover $26.95
Surfing the Middle East presents the ultimate dichotomy, a Californian surfer of Jewish descent making his way through the volatile regions of Israel, Palestine, Jordon and Lebanon. Along the way, he meets Israeli soldiers, fellow surfers in both Israel and Lebanon and realizes the goal he set out to accomplish, to surf the Mediterranean from Israel to Lebanon. What makes Aizenstat’s journey so remarkable is the political commentary, and the political activities Jesse becomes part of.
He talks frankly of the Palestinian situation. He explains it in terms Americans, Jews and the world can understand.
I am Jewish, so at first I was taken aback by Aizenstat’s tale. Sure, I liked his story of hanging out with Jewish surfers who were just like him, but when he talked of his time in Nablus and the terror the late night Israeli raids had caused him, both back then and in the present, I was taken aback. Here was a person of Jewish descent sympathizing with the Palestinians. As the story went on though, I found myself seeing his perspective more and more. I saw on the page, through his eyes the Palestinians who face off weekly, unarmed, against the IDF. They are protesting the seizure of their farmland. They even took the case to the Israeli Supreme Court and won the return of their land, but the military refuses to allow them back into their land, so every week they gather at the fence to protest and to try to take down one layer of the double-layered fence that separates them from land that is rightly theirs. Weekly they are gassed with a tear gas in powder form by the fully armed IDF (Israeli Defense Forces). It is criminal.
Through Jesse’s eyes, I saw the refugee camps filled with Palestinians who are still living in Lebanon. Camps that were meant to be temporary have instead been filled with generations of refugees being born and dying there in abject poverty.
I have to say Aizenstat’s book was an eye-opening experience for me. I don’t know what the solution in Palestine/Israel is, I’m not an advocate of the two nation idea, but perhaps it truly is the only reasonable, right and humane solution to an untenable situation. I thank Aizenstat for deciding to surf the Middle East, and open my eyes to a situation I was willing not to see for religious reasons. Now that very same religious conviction tells me, it is time for a change.
Surfing the Middle East isn’t all politics and protests, in fact that is actually the tale of the minority of the story. It is instead a story of how simple things, like surfing can unite people across the world in a way that humanizes all of them because they are no longer defined by nationalistic, or religious stereotypes but rather by the common humanity and love of life that binds us all.